Teen anxiety. That is the topic for today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed
marriage and family therapist, and I'm the founder and clinical director of Teen Therapy Center,
and also the chairman of the board and the executive director of the non -profit organization
Child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, where we help kids, teens, and families
live happier lives. Every Wednesday at noon, I answer your parenting questions, and here is
today's question. My daughter told me she has anxiety and that it's making high school really
hard. She's 15 and she's never had a problem with this kind of stuff before. I'm honestly not
sure what she means by anxiety. She's always been a confident, outgoing kid. How am I supposed
to respond to this? So when our kids are going through anxiety or having some uncomfortable
feeling that's not abating, it creates a lot of anxiety in us as parents because we want to help
and we feel helpless. And I think that can give
us a little insight into how your kid is feeling. When people feel anxious, and this is beyond
just the normal run -of -the -mill anxiety that everyone feels. As humans, we all get anxious
sometimes, but it's the persistent anxiety that won't stop, makes someone feel helpless.
And so we, as parents, feel helpless. And it's important that we are aware of that so we don't
start projecting that helplessness and that anxiety back onto our kids, making them more anxious
and helpless. And the cycle of anxiety, helplessness, and then suddenly people are yelling
and screaming or distancing themselves and it becomes worse. So if you've never had a consistent
feeling of anxiety in life that you couldn't shake, it may be hard to relate with. And what I would
encourage you to do is to trust that those feelings are real and not trying to dismiss them, not
trying to explain them away. The worst three words you can say is, don't worry about it. Actually
that's four words, I'm sorry. But as soon as you
say don't worry about it, what am I gonna do? I'm gonna start worrying about it even more and they're
gonna feel like maybe I'm crazy feeling this way but I still feel this way. So trying to dismiss
the feelings is not gonna help. What can help is having a real empathic response. Sit Sit down
with your daughter on the couch or at the kitchen table, hold her hand, put your arm around her
shoulder. She'll let you if that kind of physical contact is going to be helpful for her. Say,
hey, I know you're not feeling good right now. I know you're upset. I know you're feeling bad.
Talk to me about it. I'm not going to judge you. You're not going to get in trouble. Don't try to
fix the problem. You cannot solve her problem. You cannot solve her anxiety. There's nothing
you're going to say that's going to make her magically go, ah, I feel better. It's not about what
you say. It's that it's what you hear. It's having big ears and a small mouth, right? And if you're
able to have that physical closeness
with her because we as humans oftentimes respond positively to Loving physical contact where
it feels safe If that works for your family and let her just talk let her just vent and it may be
things you think that's nothing That's easy that we can totally do with you. We can we can respond
to that. We can fix that Bite your tongue till it bleeds because she's not needing you to solve
the problem. She needs you to listen. And as you're listening, if she's feeling safer, she may
ask you for your advice, which is a trap question, a trick question. You may want to say to her,
hey, I hear you asking for my input. Do you want me to give you advice or do you just want me to listen?
She says, yes, I want your advice. What should I do? Then you offer advice, but you have to understand
that you cannot hold her to following that advice because she's probably not going to follow
it, at least not at first. Just like you don't follow advice when your friends give you advice
either. None of us follows
advice. We don't usually want advice. We usually know what to do. We just don't want to do it because
it's uncomfortable, whether it's talking to a teacher or a friend or, you know, whatever that
is. This is not going to be solved in one sit -down meeting with the two of you. It's going to be
several times, meeting and talking and listening and allowing her to vent and eventually helping
her recognize ways that she can solve the problem or deal with frustration and anxiety, whether
it's finding a creative outlet, a physical outlet, those are really big things. Finding what
are causes, again it could be a thousand different things, but here are some common ones. Is
there a social circle at school changing in some way that she's not ready for and she doesn't
know how to predict or it's scary or it's uncomfortable? Is there something going on at home?
Are there family relations at home that are more tense or volatile or distant and she's not coping
with that well. Is a lot of pressure for
her to form at school or her sporting event or her you know piano recital or whatever that is.
Is that causing more anxiety? Again these are just a few examples of many. You also want to look
at how much screen time she's getting. Is she getting too much screen time? Is it disrupting
her sleep? And that can cause a lot of anxiety. Something you may want to talk to a pediatrician
about, or better yet, a nutritionist about, is her diet affecting her anxiety? Which it can.
Is she eating certain things, whether it's more sugar or whatever it is, is that causing more
anxiety? Some kids it does, some kids it doesn't. Everyone's unique, so it's important to talk
to professional about how to determine if certain foods are making her react in ways that are
not working. So talk to pediatrician, talk to nutritionist, and the anxiety is still persistent,
still going there, you may need to talk to a counselor and that can help. And helping her, giving
her an avenue where she can process these feelings
and talk about them in a safe, non -gender mental environment may help her start challenging
these disruptive thoughts and feelings. Anyways, it's a lot to talk about. We can talk all for
an hour, two hours, five hours about anxiety because it's a big topic. But I just want to scratch
the surface, give you kind of one direction to pursue and kind of go towards. I just want to make
sure you don't try to dismiss her feelings. Don't try to explain them away. Don't try to fix it.
Just be there for her. Big ears, small mouth, and that is what I want you to walk away with today
with Tips on Teens. Anyways, if you have a question you'd like me to answer next Wednesday at
noon, please email us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com or you can direct message us
right here on Facebook, or just give us a call. Love to hear from you. Again, see you next Wednesday.
Talk to you then. Bye bye.
We’ve all heard the word “anxiety” before…but what does it mean in a mental health context? What does anxiety look like for today’s teenager? This week’s Tips On Teens question is from a parent wondering what to do after a conversation about anxiety with her daughter:
“My daughter told me she has anxiety and that it’s making high school really hard. She’s 15 and she’s never had a problem with this kind of stuff before. I’m honestly not sure what she means by “anxiety”—she’s always been a confident and outgoing kid. How am I supposed to respond to this?”
Tips On Teens is a vlog that our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint, hosts every Wednesday at 12:00pm on Facebook Live. He will be answering parenting questions submitted to us by you to our email at TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. Send us any questions you might have about parenting kids and teens and Kent will be answering them every week!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.